Court ushers quit over job changes
ANGRY ushers at Bristol Civil Justice Centre have quit over "unacceptable" changes to their jobs.
The walkout could put a strain on the case load at the largest civil court complex in the South West and has sparked fears of delays and adjournments.
At least three ushers at the centre on Redcliff Street resigned when changes were imposed by HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
The Evening Post understands another two are considering walking out, leaving seven to cover nine courts and six civil hearing rooms.
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It is understood that as a consequence of back office staff taking early retirement or redundancy after budget cuts, ushers have been asked to prepare legal files and do administrative work they previously did not have to do.
Catherine Craig, regional secretary for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), said: "There have been an awful lot of staff shortages at courts over the last few years. We know that our members are suffering the consequences of that.
"More responsibility has led to more absences due to work-related stress."
A solicitor who works regularly at the civil courts told the Post: "I would be very surprised if this does not have an effect on cases. Courts are notably busier on the civil side than they used to be and with the changes to legal aid, fewer people will be able to afford a solicitor and will have to represent themselves.
"Without lawyers and ushers in court you run the risk of having more delays and adjournments, with judges having to take more of an administrative role and sit longer, which costs more.
"This is the domino affect of the funding cuts coming down from the Ministry of Justice and court board."
An HMCTS spokeswoman said: "Bristol Civil Justice Centre currently has access to a pool of seven ushers. We are confident that we have sufficient staff resources to cover the usher roles required.
"Over the last 18 months ushers have been required, with training, to cover basic administrative duties as well as their usual responsibilities.
"The administrative duties do not exceed the responsibilities expected of an usher grade. Three ushers have resigned in the past two weeks. We are not currently recruiting to replace these posts."